Tag Archives: Constitutional Convention

The American Spirit

Madison argues that oligarchy is difficult in America because of our size and diversity… but critics consistently cited the House of Representatives as the most susceptible institution in the new government.

james-madison

Anti-Federalists argued that the Representatives would have the least amount of sympathy… with the masses of people; focusing exclusively on the narrow interests of their few electors, ignoring the will of the majority.  Madison first counters with a historical analysis of the British system and the necessary role of states in the Federal system.  But he concludes his argument in Federalist #57 by appealing to what he describes as the American Spirit:

 

“If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.”

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Defining Misdemeanors

Madison and Hamilton allowed the grounds for impeachment of the President… open to necessary judgments and deliberations in the House of Representatives.  Madison’s original draft suggested only the term “maladministration” of the duties of the office.  Later amended to “misdemeanors” it is clear that the Framers were not only discussing indictable crimes- public men of this order would be above petty larceny and the like-  abuse of the office and the neglect of official duty is what concerned them.

You doubt our words?

Hamilton explained the difference in Federalist #65:

“Those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

Impeachment applies to political abuses of the office… not necessarily criminal acts.  Delegates at the ratifying conventions were concerned about the President interfering in the legislative or judicial processes.  Madison responded to the concerns by equating such Constitutional misconduct with criminality:

“Were the President to commit any thing so atrocious… he would be impeached and convicted, as a majority of the states would be affected by his misdemeanor.”

Failing to discharge the duties of his office

The President cannot abuse or misuse the powers of his office… without risking impeachment.  The term “misdemeanor” as applied by the Framers establishes a standard extending far beyond simple criminal acts.  Public men should be held to a greater standard.

 

 

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The American Spirit

Madison argues that oligarchy is difficult in America because of our size and diversity… but critics consistently cited the House of Representatives as the most susceptible institution in the new government.

james-madison

Anti-Federalists argued that the Representatives would have the least amount of sympathy… with the masses of people; focusing exclusively on the narrow interests of their few electors, ignoring the will of the majority.  Madison first counters with a historical analysis of the British system and the necessary role of states in the Federal system.  But he concludes his argument in Federalist #57 by appealing to what he describes as the American Spirit:

 

“If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.”

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On Impeachment

Supporters of corrupt Presidents, from Andrew Johnson to Bill Clinton… all use the same erroneous argument about the Impeachment provision of the Constitution.  “But he didn’t commit a high crime!”   

 

If only our Framers had specific indictable crimes in mind when they included… the all important Impeachment provision.  The historical record clearly shows “High crimes and misdemeanors”  is a standard based on all facets of public conduct.

Listen to this rap

In Federalist 65, Hamilton writes : “those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

 

Madison argues in the Convention debates that impeachment can be used if the President “fails to discharge the duties of his office.”  

The Framer

“it will make him in a peculiar manner, responsible for [the] conduct” of executive officers. subject him to impeachment himself, if he suffers them to perpetrate with impunity high crimes or misdemeanors against the United States, or neglects to superintend their conduct, so as to check their excesses.”

 

Should we scrutinize the current occupant of the White House more diligently? 

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Ruinous Ideas Linger on

The Doctrine of Nullification lost in the court of history… as a nation state and as a people we rejected it, outright.  Our Constitution created a hierarchy of law to bring order to the muddled system of 13 competing legal systems.  Madison, describing government as an unruly beast defended the Supremacy Clause: “it would have seen the authority of the whole society everywhere subordinate to the authority of the parts; it would have seen a monster, in which the head was under the direction of the members”.

You doubt me, still?

You doubt me, still?

  • The Resolutions of 98-  Roundly rejected by 10 of the 13 legislatures, Jefferson and Madison had taken their objections to the Alien and Sedition Acts too far.  Unconstitutional actions by the legislature can be addressed in the Federal Courts.  Washington saw the danger in them: “they  would dissolve the union or produce coercion.”
  • McCulloch vs. Maryland-  The Supreme Court settled the issue in 1819 striking down Maryland’s attempt to tax the Second Bank of the United States.  Chief Justice John Marshall defended implied powers in the Constitution: “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.”
  • Nullification Crisis of 1831- John C. Calhoun’s pernicious attempt to undermine the Jackson Presidency- South Carolina unlawfully “nullified” the tariff of 1828.  A tariff is a DELEGATED power; not reserved for the states, and not implied in a clause…it is specifically cited in the Constitution.   Calhoun and his ilk were no match for Old Hickory and his willingness to use force to defend Federal authority.
Not on my watch

Not on my watch

So why are amateurish politicians like Greg Abbott…in Texas hearkening  back to something as discredited as Nullification?  Abbott proposed it several times in his suggested list of “amendments.”   Governor Abbott needs to read some history.  We’ve been down this road before-  it leads nowhere…

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Filed under Uncategorized

The American Spirit

Madison argues that oligarchy is difficult in America because of our size and diversity… but critics consistently cited the House of Representatives as the most susceptible institution in the new government.

james-madison

Anti-Federalists argued that the Representatives would have the least amount of sympathy… with the masses of people; focusing exclusively on the narrow interests of their few electors, ignoring the will of the majority.  Madison first counters with a historical analysis of the British system and the necessary role of states in the Federal system.  But he concludes his argument in Federalist #57 by appealing to what he describes as the American Spirit:

 

“If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Ephemera, News

Ruinous Ideas Linger on

The Doctrine of Nullification lost in the court of history… as a nation state and as a people we rejected it, outright.  Our Constitution created a hierarchy of law to bring order to the muddled system of 13 competing legal systems.  Madison, describing government as an unruly beast defended the Supremacy Clause: “it would have seen the authority of the whole society everywhere subordinate to the authority of the parts; it would have seen a monster, in which the head was under the direction of the members”.

You doubt me, still?

You doubt me, still?

  • The Resolutions of 98-  Roundly rejected by 10 of the 13 legislatures, Jefferson and Madison had taken their objections to the Alien and Sedition Acts too far.  Unconstitutional actions by the legislature can be addressed in the Federal Courts.  Washington saw the danger in them: “they  would dissolve the union or produce coercion.”
  • McCulloch vs. Maryland-  The Supreme Court settled the issue in 1819 striking down Maryland’s attempt to tax the Second Bank of the United States.  Chief Justice John Marshall defended implied powers in the Constitution: “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.”
  • Nullification Crisis of 1831- John C. Calhoun’s pernicious attempt to undermine the Jackson Presidency- South Carolina unlawfully “nullified” the tariff of 1828.  A tariff is a DELEGATED power; not reserved for the states, and not implied in a clause…it is specifically cited in the Constitution.   Calhoun and his ilk were no match for Old Hickory and his willingness to use force to defend Federal authority.
Not on my watch

Not on my watch

So why are amateurish politicians like Greg Abbott…in Texas hearkening  back to something as discredited as Nullification?  Abbott proposed it several times in his suggested list of “amendments.”   Governor Abbott needs to read some history.  We’ve been down this road before-  it leads nowhere…

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